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Shekhinah (Hebrew: שְׁכִינָה, Modern: Šəḵīna, Tiberian: Šeḵīnā)[1] is the English transliteration of a Hebrew word meaning "dwelling" or "settling" and denotes the presence of God in a place. This concept is found in Judaism and the Torah, as mentioned in Exodus 25:8.[2]

The word "Shekhinah" is not found in the Bible.[3] It appears in the Mishnah, the Talmud, and Midrash.[4][5]


The word shekhinah is first encountered in the rabbinic literature. [6]: 148–49 [7]

The Semitic root from which shekhinah is derived, š-k-n, means "to settle, inhabit, or dwell".[8][9] In the verb form, it is often used to refer to the dwelling of a person[10] or animal[11] in a place, or to the dwelling of God.[12] Nouns derived from the root included shachen ("neighbor")[13] and mishkan (a dwelling-place, whether a secular home[14] or a holy site such as the Tabernacle[15]).

In Judaism[edit]

In classic Jewish thought, the shekhinah refers to a dwelling or settling in a special sense, a dwelling or settling of divine presence, to the effect that, while in proximity to the shekhinah, the connection to God is more readily perceivable.[16] While shekhinah is a feminine word in Hebrew, it primarily seemed to be featured in masculine or androgynous contexts referring to a divine manifestation of the presence of God, based especially on readings of the Talmud.[16][17][18] Contemporary interpretations of the term shekhinah commonly see it as the divine feminine principle in Judaism.[19][20]


The prophets made numerous references to visions of the presence of God, particularly in the context of the Tabernacle or Temple, with figures such as thrones or robes filling the Sanctuary.[21]

The shekhinah is referred to as manifest in the Tabernacle and the Temple in Jerusalem throughout rabbinic literature.

It is also reported as being present in other contexts:

  • While a person (or people) study Torah, the Shekhinah is among them.[22]
  • "Whenever ten are gathered for prayer, there the Shekhinah rests."[23]
  • "When three sit as judges, the Shekhinah is with them."[24]
  • Cases of personal need: "The Shekhinah dwells over the headside of the sick man's bed",[25] "Wheresoever they were exiled, the Shekhinah went with them."[26]
  • "A man and woman - if they merit, the Shekhinah is between them. If not, fire consumes them."[27] According to one interpretation of this source, the Shekhinah is the highest of six types of holy fire. When a married couple is worthy of this manifestation, all other types of fire are consumed by it.[17]: 111, n. 4 

The Talmud states that "the Shekhinah rests on man neither through gloom, nor through sloth, nor through frivolity, nor through levity, nor through talk, nor through idle chatter, but only through a matter of joy in connection with a mitzvah."[28]

There is no occurrence of the word "shekhinah" in pre-rabbinic literature such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is only afterwards in the targums and rabbinic literature that the Hebrew term shekhinah, or Aramaic equivalent shekinta, is found, and then becomes extremely common. Martin McNamara (see notes) considers that the absence might lead to the conclusion that the term only originated after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, but notes 2 Maccabees 14:35 "a temple for your habitation", where the Greek text (Koinē Greek: ναὸν τῆς σῆς σκηνώσεως) suggests a possible parallel understanding, and where σκήνωσις skēnōsis "a tent-building", a variation on an early loanword from Phoenician (Ancient Greek: ἡ σκηνή skēnē "tent"), is deliberately used to represent the original Hebrew or Aramaic term.[6]: 148 


In the Targum the addition of the noun term shekhinah paraphrases Hebrew verb phrases such as Exodus 34:9 "let the Lord go among us" (a verbal expression of presence) which Targum paraphrases with God's "shekhinah" (a noun form).[29] In the post-temple era usage of the term shekhinah may provide a solution to the problem of God being omnipresent and thus not dwelling in any one place.[30] In the Hebrew text of Exodus 33:20, as another example, Moses is told "You will not be able to see my face, for no human can see Me and live." Once again, using of the term shekhinah provides a solution to the corporeal idiom, so Targum Onkelos reads: "You will not be able to see the face of my shekhinah...."[31]

Jewish prayers[edit]

The 17th blessing of the daily Amidah prayer concludes with the line "[Blessed are You, God,] who returns His Presence (shekhinato) to Zion" (הַמַּחֲזִיר שְׁכִינָתוֹ לְצִיּוֹן‎).

The Liberal Jewish prayer-book for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (Machzor Ruach Chadashah) contains a creative prayer based on Avinu Malkeinu, in which the feminine noun shekhinah is used in the interests of gender neutrality.[32]

Relationship to the Holy Spirit[edit]

The concept of shekhinah is also associated with the concept of the Holy Spirit in Judaism (ruach ha-kodesh).[33]


Sabbath Bride[edit]

The theme of the shekhinah as the Sabbath Bride recurs in the writings and songs of 16th century Kabbalist, Isaac Luria. The Azamer Bishvachin song, written in Aramaic by Luria (his name appears as an acrostic of each line) and sung at the evening meal of Shabbat is an example of this. The song appears in particular in many siddurs in the section following Friday night prayers and in some Shabbat song books:

Let us invite the Shechinah with a newly-laid table
and with a well-lit menorah that casts light on all heads.

Three preceding days to the right, three succeeding days to the left,
and amid them the Sabbath bride with adornments she goes, vessels and robes
May the Shechinah become a crown through the six loaves on each side
through the doubled-six may our table be bound with the profound Temple services[34]

A paragraph in the Zohar starts: "One must prepare a comfortable seat with several cushions and embroidered covers, from all that is found in the house, like one who prepares a canopy for a bride. For the Shabbat is a queen and a bride. This is why the masters of the Mishna used to go out on the eve of Shabbat to receive her on the road, and used to say: "'Come, O bride, come, O bride!' And one must sing and rejoice at the table in her honor ... one must receive the Lady with many lighted candles, many enjoyments, beautiful clothes, and a house embellished with many fine appointments ..."[need quotation to verify]

The tradition of the shekhinah as the Shabbat Bride, the Shabbat Kallah, continues to this day.[need quotation to verify]

As feminine aspect[edit]

Kabbalah associates the shekhinah with the female.[17]: 128, n.51  According to Gershom Scholem, "The introduction of this idea was one of the most important and lasting innovations of Kabbalism. other element of Kabbalism won such a degree of popular approval."[35] The "feminine Jewish divine presence, the shekhinah, distinguishes Kabbalistic literature from earlier Jewish literature."[36]

"In the imagery of the Kabbalah the shekhinah is the most overtly female sefirah, the last of the ten sefirot, referred to imaginatively as 'the daughter of God'. ... The harmonious relationship between the female shekhinah and the six sefirot which precede her causes the world itself to be sustained by the flow of divine energy. She is like the moon reflecting the divine light into the world."[37]

Nativity and life of Moses[edit]

The Zohar, a foundation book of kabbalah, presents the shekhinah as playing an essential role in the conception and birth of Moses.[38] Later during the Exodus on the "third new moon" in the desert, "Shekhinah revealed Herself and rested upon him before the eyes of all."[39][40]

The Tenth Sefirah[edit]

In Kabbalah, the shekhinah is identified with the tenth sefirah (Malkuth), and the source of life for humans on earth below the sefirotic realm. The Shekhinah is seen as the feminine divine presence of God descended in this world, dwelling with the people of Israel and sharing in their struggles. Moses is the only human considered to have risen beyond shekhinah into the sefirotic realm, reaching the level of Tiferet, or the bridegroom of the shekhinah.[41]

In Christianity[edit]

The concept is similar to that in the Gospel of Matthew 18:20, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in their midst."[6]: 149  Some Christian theologians have connected the concept of shekhinah to the Greek term parousia, "presence" or "arrival," which is used in the New Testament in a similar way for "divine presence".[42]

Branch Davidians[edit]

Lois Roden, whom the original Branch Davidian Seventh-Day Adventist Church acknowledged as their teacher/prophet from 1978 to 1986, laid heavy emphasis on women's spirituality and the feminine aspect of God. She published a magazine, Shekinah, often rendered SHEkinah, in which she explored the concept that the shekhinah is the Holy Spirit. Articles from Shekinah are reprinted online at the Branch Davidian website.[43]

In Islam[edit]

In the Quran[edit]

Sakīnah (Arabic: سكينة) signifies the "presence or peace of God". As "support and reassurance" it was "sent by God into the hearts" of Muslims and Muhammad, according to John Esposito.[44] A modern translator of the Quran, N. J. Dawood, states that "tranquility" is the English word for the Arabic meaning of sakīnah, yet it could be "an echo of the Hebrew shekeenah (the Holy Presence)."[45] Another scholar states that the Arabic sakīnah derives from the Hebrew/Aramaic shekhinah.[46] In the Quran, the Sakīnah is mentioned six times, in surah al-Baqara, at-Tawba and al-Fath.[47]

Their prophet further told them, “The sign of Saul’s kingship is that the Ark will come to you—containing reassurance from your Lord and relics of the family of Moses and the family of Aaron, which will be carried by the angels. Surely in this is a sign for you, if you ˹truly˺ believe.”.

Sakīnah means "tranquility", "peace". "calm", from the Arabic root sakana: "to be quiet", "to abate", "to dwell". In Islam, Sakīnah "designates a special peace, the "Peace of God". Although related to Hebrew shekhinah, the spiritual state is not an "indwelling of the Divine Presence"[48][need quotation to verify] The ordinary Arabic use of the word's root is "the sense of abiding or dwelling in a place". A story in Tafsir and Isra'iliyyat literature relates how Ibrahim and Isma'il, when looking for the spot to build the Kaaba found sakīnah. Newby writes that it was like a breeze "with a face that could talk", saying "build over me."[46] "Associated with piety and moments of divine inspiration, sakinah in Islamic mysticism signifies an interior spiritual illumination."[44]

Comments regarding Sakina[edit]

Sakina in the Quran can refer to God's blessing of solace and succour upon both the Children of Israel and Muhammad.[need quotation to verify] Al-Qurtubi mentions in his exegesis, in explanation of the above-mentioned verse [2:248], that according to Wahb ibn Munabbih, sakinah is a spirit from God that speaks, and, in the case of the Israelites, where people disagreed on some issue, this spirit came to clarify the situation, and used to be a cause of victory for them in wars. According to Ali, "Sakinah is a sweet breeze/wind, whose face is like the face of a human". Mujahid mentions that "when Sakinah glanced at an enemy, they were defeated", and ibn Atiyyah mentions about the Ark of the Covenant (at-Tabut), to which the sakina was associated, that souls found therein peace, warmth, companionship and strength.[citation needed]

In Gnosticism[edit]

Shekhinah, often in plural, is also present in some gnostic writings written in Aramaic, such as the writings of the Manichaeans and the Mandaeans, as well as others. In these writings, shekinas are described as hidden aspects of God, somewhat resembling the Amahrāspandan of the Zoroastrians.[49]

In Mandaeism, a škina (Classical Mandaic: ࡔࡊࡉࡍࡀ) is a celestial dwelling where uthra, or benevolent celestial beings, live in the World of Light (alma d-nhūra).[50] In Mandaean priest initiation ceremonies, a škina refers to an initiation hut where a novice and his initiator stay for seven days without sleeping. The hut is called a škina since priests are considered to be the earthly manifestations of uthras, and the initiation hut represents the abode of the uthra on earth.[51]

Anthropological views[edit]

Raphael Patai[edit]

In the work by anthropologist Raphael Patai entitled The Hebrew Goddess, the author argues that the term shekhinah refers to a goddess by comparing and contrasting scriptural and medieval Jewish Kabbalistic source materials. Patai draws a historic distinction between the shekhinah and the Matronit. She may also be derived from Shekhmet, the most common and oldest of Egyptian goddesses.[need quotation to verify] In his book Patai also discusses the Hebrew goddesses Asherah and Anat-Yahu.[52]

Gustav Davidson[edit]

American poet Gustav Davidson listed shekhinah as an entry in his reference work A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels (1967), stating that she is the female incarnation of Metatron.[53]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Khan, Geoffrey (2020). The Tiberian Pronunciation Tradition of Biblical Hebrew, Volume 1. Open Book Publishers. ISBN 978-1783746767.
  2. ^ Dan, Joseph (2006). Kabbalah: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-19530034-5. The term "shekhinah" ... was formulated in talmudic literature from the biblical verb designating the residence (shkn) of God in the temple in Jerusalem and among the Jewish people. "Shekhinah" is used in rabbinic literature as one of the many abstract titles or references to God.
  3. ^ "Shekinah - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia -". Retrieved 2023-12-05.
  4. ^ "Pirkei Avot 3:2". Retrieved 2023-12-05.
  5. ^ "Pentateuchal Targumim". NTCS - IOTS. 2013-09-07. Retrieved 2023-12-05.
  6. ^ a b c McNamara, Martin (2010). McNamara, Martin (ed.). Targum and Testament Revisited: Aramaic Paraphrases of the Hebrew Bible: A Light on the New Testament (2nd ed.). Wm. B. Eerdmans. ISBN 978-0-80286275-4. Whereas the verb shakan and terms from the root š-k-n occur in the Hebrew Scriptures, and while the term shekhinah/shekhinta is extremely common in rabbinic literature and the targums, no occurrence of it is attested in pre-rabbinic literature.
  7. ^ S. G. F. Brandon, ed., Dictionary of Comparative Religion (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons 1970), p. 573: "Shekhinah".
  8. ^ AlHaTorah Concordance: שָׁכַן
  9. ^ Berenbaum, Michael; Skolnik, Fred (2007). [Encyclopaedia Judaica. Ed. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 18. 2nd ed. Detroit, MI: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. p440-444. Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2007 Keter Publishing House Ltd. "Encyclopaedia Judaica"]. Keter Publishing House Ltd. {{cite web}}: Check |url= value (help)
  10. ^ Numbers 23:9
  11. ^ Bava Kamma 92b
  12. ^ Exodus 25:8
  13. ^ Exodus 3:22, Ketubot 85b
  14. ^ e.g. Numbers 24:5
  15. ^ e.g. Psalms 132:5
  16. ^ a b Unterman, Alan; et al. (2007). "Shekhinah". In Berenbaum, Michael; Skolnik, Fred (eds.). Encyclopaedia Judaica. Vol. 18 (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference. pp. 440–444. ISBN 978-0-02-866097-4. Shekhinah ... or Divine Presence, refers most often in rabbinic literature to the numinous immanence of God in the world. The Shekhinah is God viewed in spatio-temporal terms as a presence, particularly in a this-worldly context: when He sanctifies a place, an object, an individual, or a whole people – a revelation of the holy in the midst of the profane. ... In origin Shekhinah was used to refer to a divine manifestation, particularly to indicate God's presence at a given place. ... The Shekhinah, however, although grammatically feminine, remains male or at the very least androgynous in early rabbinic literature.
  17. ^ a b c Ginsburgh, Yitzchak (1999). The Mystery of Marriage. Gal Einai. ISBN 965-7146-00-3.
  18. ^ Eisenberg, Ronald L. The JPS Guide to Jewish Traditions. The Jewish Publication Society, 2004. ISBN 0-8276-0760-1
  19. ^ Novick, Rabbi Leah (2008). On the Wings of Shekhinah: Rediscovering Judaism's Divine Feminine. Quest Books. ISBN 9780835608619.
  20. ^ "Shekhinah: The Divine Feminine". My Jewish Learning. In contemporary Jewish discourse, the term shekhinah most commonly refers to the divine feminine, or to the feminine aspect of God.
  21. ^ For example: Isaiah 6:1; Jeremiah 14:21; Jeremiah 17:12; Ezekiel 8:4
  22. ^ Pirkei Avot 3:6, 3:3
  23. ^ Talmud Sanhedrin 39a
  24. ^ Talmud Berachot 6a
  25. ^ Talmud Shabbat 12b
  26. ^ Talmud Megillah 29a
  27. ^ Talmud Sotah 17a
  28. ^ Tractate Shabbat 30b
  29. ^ Paul V.M. Flesher, Bruce D. Chilton The Targums: A Critical Introduction 900421769X 2011 - Page 45 "The first comprises the use of the term "Shekhinah" (.....) which is usually used to speak of God's presence in Israel's worship. The Hebrew text of Exodus 34:9, for instance, has Moses pray, "let the Lord go among us" which Targum ..."
  30. ^ Carol A. Dray Studies on Translation and Interpretation in the Targum to ... 9004146989 2006 - Page 153 "The use of the term Shekhinah, as has been noted previously,61 appears to provide a solution to the problem of God being omnipresent and thus unable to dwell in any one place. This is not the only occasion in TJ Kings when the Targumist ..."
  31. ^ "Pentateuchal Targumim". NTCS - IOTS. 2013-09-07. Retrieved 2023-12-05.
  32. ^ Rabbis Drs. Andrew Goldstein & Charles H Middleburgh, ed. (2003). Machzor Ruach Chadashah (in English and Hebrew). Liberal Judaism. p. 137.
  33. ^ Ruth Rubin Voices of a People: The Story of Yiddish Folksong p234
  34. ^ The Family Zemiros (Second, Fifth Impression ed.). USA: Mesorah Publications, Ltd. 1987. p. 38. ISBN 0-89906-182-6.
  35. ^ Gershom G. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (Jerusalem: Schocken 1941, 3d rev'd ed: reprint 1961), p. 229 (quote).
  36. ^ Tzahi Weiss, "The Worship of the Shekhinah in Early Kabbalah" (Academic 2015), p. 1 (quote), cf. pp. 5–8. [See "External Links" below for text of article].
  37. ^ Alan Unterman, Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend (London: Thames and Hudson 1991), p. 181. Cf. p. 175 re sefirot. The 10th sefirot is Malkuth 'kingdom' or Shekhinah.
  38. ^ Zohar Shemot, 11a
  39. ^ Zohar. The Book of Enlightenment, translation and introduction by Daniel Chanan Matt (New York: Paulist Press 1983), pp. 99-101, quote at 101; notes to text at pp. 235–238, 311. Text: standard edition, vol. 2, pp. 11a–b.
  40. ^ Cf. Scholem, Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (1941, 1961), pp. 199–200, 226–227.
  41. ^ Green, Arthur (2003). Guide to the Zohar. Stanford University Press. pp. 51–53.
  42. ^ Neal DeRoo, John Panteleimon Manoussakis, Phenomenology and Eschatology: Not Yet in the Now By, Ashgate, 2009, p. 27.
  43. ^ General Association of Branch Davidian Seventh-Day Adventists, page found 2010-09-14.
  44. ^ a b Esposito, John L. (2004). The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press. p. 274. ISBN 9780199757268. "Sakinah The presence or peace of God. As mentioned in the Quran (48:4) and elsewhere, it was sent by God into the hearts of believers and upon His messenger, Muhammad, as support and reassurance. Associated with piety and moments of divine inspiration, sakinah in Islamic mysticism signifies an interior spiritual illumination."
  45. ^ The Koran (Penguin 1956, 4th rev'd ed. 1976), translated by Dawood, p. 275, note 2 (quote).
  46. ^ a b Newby, Gordon (2013). A Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. Oneworld Publications. p. 189. ISBN 9781780744773. "Arabic from Hebrew/ Aramaic: spirit of God" "In another sense, also in the Qur'ân, it refers to the spirit of God. This meaning is found in tafsı̂r and isrâ'ı̂liyyât literature, as, for example, when Ibrâhı̂m and Ismâ'ı̂l are looking for the place to build the Ka'bah, the sakı̂nah circles around the right spot, saying, “Build over me; build over me.” It is supposed to be like a wind, but with a face that can talk."
  47. ^ Quran 2:248, 9:26, 9:40, 48:4, 48:18 and 48:26
  48. ^ Glassé, Cyril (1989). The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam. Harper & Row. p. 343. ISBN 9780060631239.
  49. ^ Jonas, Hans, The Gnostic Religion, 1958, p. 98.
  50. ^ Aldihisi, Sabah (2008). The story of creation in the Mandaean holy book in the Ginza Rba (PhD). University College London.
  51. ^ Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2002). The Mandaeans: ancient texts and modern people. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515385-5. OCLC 65198443.
  52. ^ Patai, Raphael (1967). The Hebrew Goddess. Wayne State University Press. ISBN 0-8143-2271-9.
  53. ^ Davidson, Gustav. A Dictionary of Angels, Including the Fallen Angels. New York, NY, USA. 1967. The Free Press, p. 272. "Shekinah".

External links[edit]